Between its endless white-sand beaches, Caribbean rhythm and staggering wildlife, it isn’t hard to see what makes St. Lucia one of the Caribbean’s most popular islands. But how much do you know about the tropical escape? Here are some interesting facts about St Lucia we’ll wager you haven’t heard before.
Interesting facts about St. Lucia
1. It’s home to the world’s only ‘drive-in volcano’
The Sulphur Springs in Soufriere claims to be the only drive-thru volcano in the world. The active volcano last erupted well over two centuries ago in the early 1700s and today it’s best known for its bubbling sulphur-spewing mud baths. Thousands of visitors head here every year to detoxify the body and help heal everything from sunburn and eczema to sore joints and arthritis. And, as you might have deduced from its moniker, visitors can drive all the way through it.
2. It’s the only nation in the world named after a woman
Saint Lucia is the only sovereign nation in the world named after a woman. It’s believed to be named after Saint Lucy of Syracuse. No one knows exactly where it got its name from, but most say it comes from the French Virgin Martyr Sainte Alouise. The island is also known as ‘Helen of the West Indies’, coined by a British historian who compared the island to Helen of Troy for mobilizing an entire navy.
In fact, to mark International Women’s Day this year, the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority (SLTA) launched the ‘She is Sant Lucia’ campaign. Featuring an inspiring video, the campaign aimed to spotlight Saint Lucian women around the world.
3. St. Lucia is known as the ‘Island of Iguanas’
St. Lucia boasts a staggering variety of wildlife. It’s home to an impressive number of snakes, lizards and mongooses but it’s the iguana that usually makes the biggest impression on visitors. The largest lizard found in Saint Lucia, iguanas can grow up to six feet in length. They feature distinctive brown and black markings on green skin and a crest of spines along their neck. If you’re hoping to spot some, head to the wilder northeast coast.
When early settlers first arrived on the island, they called it – rather unimaginatively – ‘the island of iguanas’.
4. It’s home to the spectacular Piton Mountain Range
First-time visitors can’t fail to be blown away by these soaring twin peaks. The two volcanic plugs – lovingly referred to as Gros Piton and Petit Piton –sit on the southwestern coast of the island. The former soars to 2,540 feet, while the latter is marginally smaller at 2,438 feet. According to the UNESCO World Heritage website, coral reefs cover almost 60% of the site’s marine area, and there are also 168 species of finfish and at least 148 plant species on Gros Piton.
If you can hack the dizzying ascent, you’ll get to enjoy sweeping views of the whole island. If you’d rather not put your pedometer to the test, you can take in the views from the water by catamaran.
5. They’re good at rum, but you can try home-brewed pilsner too
Premium spirits aren’t your only beverage option in St. Lucia. Piton Beer Pilsner is brewed on the island – and it’s a real crowdpleaser. Established in 1972, the beer takes its name from the UNESCO World Heritage Pitons. You’ll find it across the island.
6. The French and British also inspired St. Lucian cuisine
Famously described as seven times British and seven times French, St. Lucia’s cuisine is deeply rooted in an exciting variety of cultural influences. The national dish is green figs and saltfish, though the figs are actually bananas. Herbs and spices are popular, particularly nutmeg and cloves. Other popular dishes include bouyon (hearty soup made with lamb, beef, pork, and saltfish), smoked herring and breadfruit, and lambi (conch meat seasoned with spices and pan-fried).
7. Tourism is crucial
At around 65% of GDP, tourism accounts for the island’s main source of jobs and income. Interestingly, of all the Caribbean islands St. Lucia also boasts the most diverse manufacturing sector. St. Lucia was once renowned for its banana industry but now faces strong competition. Other exports such as mangoes, cacao and avocados account for a significant amount of GDP too.